The Rutland boys tend to play at a higher speed than their opponents.
Those high-octane moments occurred early and often against Westside on Friday in the GHSA Region 2-AAAA semifinals.
The Hurricanes started the first and third quarters with a flash, but they still needed to hold off Westside at the end for a 71-62 victory. Rutland will host Veterans at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with a chance at its second straight region title.
“We know playing Westside that the lead isn’t ever safe,” Rutland senior Jaylon Tyson said. “We play each other too much. We know each other.”
Ty’lik Evans scored 17 points in the first quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Tyson scored 11 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter as Rutland maintained a double-digit lead throughout most of the second and third quarters. The Hurricanes’ backcourt combined for 41 points, with Evans leading the way with 23.
Rutland (21-5) sprinted that quick start, but Westside (16-10) never strayed too far thanks to its 3-point prowess.
The Seminoles started narrowing the gap at the start of the fourth quarter, opening with an 8-2 run to pull to within four points with six minutes to play.
The final six minutes played out as a foul-shooting contest, and Westside lost. It got to within three points following a 3-pointer by Malik Harden and a free throw by J.R. Bryant. That was as close as Westside got because it missed five straight free throws after pulling to within a basket.
“Ironically, we spent 10 minutes working on free throws before we left (school Friday),” Westside head coach Josh Grube said. “We had numerous opportunities late in the game, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out for us.”
While the Seminoles were missing foul shots, Rutland made just enough during a 5-0 run to extend the lead back out to a comfortable margin. But the Hurricanes went 8-of-17 from the line in the fourth.
“We’re just going to be ready to play (Saturday),” Tyson said. “I promise we’ll be ready.”
Five Veterans played scored in double figures in the 65-60 win over Perry, led by Mike Leger’s 13 points.
The Warhawks (17-11) maintained a lead for much of the game before Perry pulled close in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers (16-12) stayed within two to four points for much of the fourth quarter until Bryan Hollis, Veterans’ hustle player, dived to save a ball to avoid a potential backcourt violation with 1:30 to play. He flipped the ball behind him to Leger, who drove to the basket to make a layup and draw the foul. The three-point play pushed the Warhawks’ lead to five points and Perry never got closer than four the rest of the way.
Perry had opportunities in the final 90 seconds as Veterans missed three front ends of 1-and-1’s and finished going 1-of-7 from the foul line in the final 56 seconds. But Hollis came up with three blocked shots in the final 90 seconds to keep Perry at bay.
“He does a lot of things that don’t show up in the newspaper,” Veterans head coach Christopher Kothe said. “He also does a lot of things that do show up in the newspaper too.”
Veterans will take on Rutland Saturday for the third time this season. The Warhawks won both previous meetings, but Rutland’s standout guard Ty’lik Evans didn’t play in the first two games.
“I think some people think it’s a fluke because Ty’lik wasn’t there in the first two games,” Kothe said. “I keep telling my kids, ‘Well, (Saturday) night, we’ll find out for sure.’ ”
The Rutland girls cruised to a win over Westside to open the day’s games, which were delayed two days because of inclement weather.
The Hurricanes held Westside to 10 points in the first half and built a large enough lead to survive some late-game struggles in a 44-31 win. They will host Mary Persons at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the region title. Mary Persons swept the season series and beat Veterans 60-37 in the semifinals.
“At times (Friday) we played well, at times we made mistakes,” Rutland head coach Johnny Dixon said. “I think our subs played well.”
Rutland (21-3) didn’t let up in the third quarter, outscoring Westside 12-6. The Hurricanes led by 20 in the fourth quarter, but the Seminoles made a run late to draw closer.
Mary Persons (22-3) never struggled in its 23-point win against Veterans.
The Bulldogs led 22-3 late in the second quarter before the Warhawks mounted a little offense to end the quarter. But they never got closer than 13 in the second half.
Mary Persons’ KeKe Calloway, the reigning Telegraph All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year, had a monster game. She scored 28 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, had eight steals and blocked five shots.
“She has a knack to know where the basketball is going to be, has a tremendous jumping ability, has quick hands and a long reach and good feet,” Mary Persons head coach Kurt Greene said. “She probably played her most complete game.”
The Bulldogs beat Rutland twice by a combined nine points during the regular season. The second game, which was in Forsyth, saw the Bulldogs overcome a rough offensive start to pull out a four-point win.
“They’re a good team, and we know it will be tough,” Calloway said. “We just have to play our game.”